Triathlon: Courtney Atkinson

Olympic hopeful stakes claim for Rio 2016 with spirited podium in Kore
Courtney Atkinson © Brett Hemmings
By Josh Rakic

With just five months left in his bid to win a record third Olympics berth ahead of Rio 2016, triathlete Courtney Atkinson has capped the 2015 season in the best way possible with a podium finish at the final ITU World Cup contest of the season in South Korea.

Having finished just a minute short of his main rivals at last month’s Chicago contest and made up 40-odd positions in the process, Courtney enjoyed the luxury of a jump in the rankings and a slightly better starting position mid-pack as a result in Korea.

It saw him emerge from the swim as one of the leaders and then enjoy the race lead for as much as half of the race, only to be pipped in the final stages and finish a narrow third. Regardless, it marks his best result of the season after making his return to the sport in April post a two-year sabbatical.

“That was my final ITU Olympic-distance race of the year and after less than 12 months back racing for my third Olympic games berth it felt bloody great to get back on an international World Cup podium and continue to re-find the speed and improvements I need heading toward Rio,” Courtney says.

“I stayed close to the front of the race leading throughout sections of the run which had a significant tough hill on each of the four laps that stung and made it a very tough race and in the final few kilometres the racewas close but decided without any sprint finishes.

“Ideally, I would have liked to have won a race, you always want to be at the top but realistically if I can get a podium, I’m back in the ballpark and can work on it again going to Rio next year. It’s always nice to be at the pointy end.”

It caps a challenging year for the 35-year-old, who after spending two years training and racing long-distance ironman had to rebuild his body and rediscover his strength and speed to become the force in sprint triathlon he’s renowned as. But it’s not mission complete just yet. He’s refusing to rest on his laurels and intends keeping the pedal to the metal over the summer months. “I've been working really hard,” Courtney says. “I feel like I'm a 12-year-old kid again. I’m over at Bond University with swim coach Richard Scare who looks after a group of some of the best sprint swimmers in the world and even after only a short time I can see this paying dividends.

“I stay at home all year in Australia and it’s a long way to travel to races, so when I race I’m up against guys that race week-in and week-out at this - and the fact I’m not getting any younger - it’s a real confidence boost.”

Courtney will return to the Gold Coast now for a just a few days before departing for Hawaii where he will contest the World Xterra Championships on November 1 in Maui.

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